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Elizabeth Boy Scouts tackle project, and it's on the house

Doug Gulasy
| Thursday, June 16, 2011, 12:00 p.m.

For a few years, a house in McKeesport sat out of use and in disrepair because the domestic violence prevention and support group that owned it didn't have the funds to renovate it.

Then in early 2010, Womansplace Executive Director Laurie MacDonald asked her friend, David Matta, if he had any suggestions for what work needed to be done and who could do it.

Matta, a leader for Boy Scout Troop 679 in Elizabeth Township, knew exactly who could help.

"I said, 'What's your timeline and what's your thought on letting some boys do it for Eagle (Scout) projects?' " Matta said.

At the time, Troop 679 had four Scouts who needed to complete Eagle Scout projects, a requirement for Scouting's highest honor: James Marynowski, 17, Trent Balta, 16, Corey Uranker, 17, and Matta's son, Aaron, 16, all from Elizabeth.

There was plenty of work for the four of them at the house at 1402 Versailles Ave.

Friday morning, after more than a year and $30,000 worth of work, Womansplace will hold a grand opening for the renovated house, which will serve as the organization's new counseling center.

David Matta will receive the 2011 Freedom From Silence Award, which Womansplace gives out every other year to individuals who go above and beyond in volunteer work for the organization.

"Dave managed this project for an entire year," MacDonald said. "It was a big effort, and he would never ask for any kind of recognition. He'll probably be embarrassed that I did this for him, but that's too bad -- he deserves it."

The four Scouts first saw the house in February 2010 and were stunned at its disrepair.

"The house was pretty much a wreck," Uranker said. "Everything was just kind of lying around. ... (The) basement, all it was, was a bunch of garbage just piled down there."

The Scouts split the renovation work four ways. Marynowski's project consisted of removing the debris and replacing outdoor benches; Balta's consisted of patching and painting walls and installing three drop ceilings; Uranker's consisted of replacing the main entry door, remodeling a bathroom and doing more patch work; and Aaron Matta's centered around renovating the kitchen and painting a powder room. The four began work in May 2010 and finished this April, getting help from their parents, fellow Scouts, Scout leaders and other volunteers.

Along the way, the workers discovered there were quite a few more issues than they expected. For instance, while working on Matta's project, the Scouts discovered the pipes in the house were corroded and needed to be replaced.

And that was far from the only problem.

"We had to wait until the shelter had a new furnace installed because in the winter months, the paint would not dry or set right," Marynowski said.

But after all the work was completed, the Scouts were more than satisfied with the finished product.

"It really did take a lot of time and a lot of effort, but once we saw it, I thought it really looked good," Aaron Matta said.

MacDonald said the new Womansplace Counseling Center will enable the organization to move its counseling programs -- such as the one on teen violence -- away from its safe house shelter, which is next door. She also said she hopes to partner with other domestic violence assistance organizations throughout the Allegheny County to do mental health counseling and other types of counseling.

"Any (Eagle) project is good because it's serving the community," Balta said. "But this one is for a unique organization like Womansplace. It kind of sets it apart from other projects. And being for an organization that helps people like Womansplace does, that kind of makes it special, too."

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